the whisky lounge - a journal tracking a whisky maturation project involving a newly-acquired oak cask and a significant amount of patience

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On the Near Impossibility of Finding Oloroso in Ottawa

Sherry comes from Spain, is somehow made from wine, and the kind of sherry casks used in scotch production are called Oloroso.

That is just about the full extent of what I know for certain about sherry and its relationship to whisky. As I've said elsewhere, I am not a sherry drinker, so I've never paid it any attention. So I did a bit of research and found out about the Oloroso connection (as opposed to Fino, Amontillado or other varieties) and decided to go grab a bottle.

I learned a few things in the process:

Sherry is shockingly cheap. Most of the bottles I found were under $10. It's cheaper than wine. I gather that there are some very nice, expensive sherries out there, but that brings me to the second thing I learned:

Apparently no one in Ottawa drinks the stuff. This is the only conclusion I can draw from the surprising dearth of the spirit on the shelves of the LCBO in this city. The expensive varieties are available in Toronto, but not here. In fact, at my local store there wasn't a single Spanish sherry available at all: Canadian, Australian and South African were my only options.

I also had thought that "Sherry" was a protected name like "Bordeaux" or "Champagne." I guess new-world types can still get away with producing fortified wine and calling it Sherry. Maybe the Spanish are too laid back to really care.

In any case, I discovered that sherry can be dry or sweet, very pale (Fino is quite pale) or dark (the Oloroso cream sherry I found is almost the same colour as Talisker 10). I would very much have preferred a straight Oloroso rather than an Oloroso cream sherry since cream sherries are sweeter, but it will have to do. I felt that it was more important to get as close to the right type of sherry than the right sweetness, since I can't tell how much of the sugar will get into the oak. It'll be an interesting experiment either way.

The sherry I purchased for this experiment is from Australia, and goes by the name of Emu Oloroso Australian Cream Sherry. Like I said, it's about the same colour as Talisker 10, and is very, very fruity. It's specifically a dried-fruit kind of smell and taste rather than fresh or unripe fruit. It is quite pleasant, actually: tangy and refreshing.

I'm already curious as to what will happen to it in the cask. If it turns out to be undrinkable, then I've only wasted a little money on it.

Like I said, sherry is shockingly cheap.


Will said...

A small aside about the name "Sherry" -- here's what Wikipedia has to say about it. Interesting!

Ian said...

Hmmm. So "Sherry" is protected like "Bordeaux" and "Champagne." I wonder why I can still buy Canadian, American and Australian bottles called "Sherry" then. Is Spain less concerned than France? Interesting